The VTOL X-Plane is an interesting military plane project led by DARPA who have just awarded the contract to Aurora Flight Sciences. The VTOL X-Plane has some interesting technology that DARPA and Aurora Flight Sciences are hoping will improve military mission capabilities in the future. Aurora worked alongside Rolls-Royce PLC and Honeywell Inc. on the project, and the concept is pretty interesting to watch. You can catch the VTOL X-Plane for yourself in the official videos released by Aurora Flight Sciences on YouTube.
“Aurora is proud to support DARPA on what we all hope to be a truly historic breakthrough in aviation technology,” said Dr. John Langford, chairman and CEO of Aurora. “If successful, VTOL X-Plane’s radically improved flight capabilities could lead to revolutionary advancement of the U.S. military’s future mission capabilities. We’re honored to have been selected by DARPA to build and flight test the demonstrator aircraft.”
The technology demonstrator was designed in close collaboration with Aurora’s team members, Rolls-Royce PLC and Honeywell International Inc. The Aurora-led team intends to deliver a number of aviation milestones with the demonstration aircraft, including being the first aircraft designed to demonstrate:
- Distributed hybrid-electric propulsion ducted fans
- An innovative synchronous electric-drive system
- Both tilt-wing- and tilt-canard-based propulsion for vertical takeoff and landing
- High efficiency in both hover and high-speed forward flight
The aircraft design features a Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine that would power three Honeywell generators, and 24 ducted fans distributed on both the wings and canards. The aircraft’s electric distributed propulsion (EDP) system would consist of highly integrated, distributed ducted fans that, combined with the synchronous electric drive system, would enable the design’s potentially revolutionary hover efficiency and high-speed forward flight.
“The Aurora team’s goal is to help redefine the future of vertical flight,” said Mark Wilson, chief operating officer of Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks, an advanced aerospace technology research and design unit. “Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks is proud to contribute both proven components and innovative new technologies in turbo-electric distributed propulsion to this exciting program.”
“Honeywell is proud to be a part of the Aurora team and contribute to this groundbreaking aviation research,” said Carey Smith, president of Honeywell Defense and Space. “Our goal is to demonstrate technology that significantly improves electric power-generation efficiency, power density and size. The improvements are needed to meet the aggressive goals for this very innovative aircraft, and would raise the bar for electric power-generation efficiency that would enable this revolutionary advance in hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion.”
The DARPA technology demonstrator’s flight control system (FCS) builds on the heritage of Aurora’s Centaur and Orion optionally manned and unmanned aircraft platforms. The FCS system runs on a triplex-redundant design to ensure detection and correction of flight anomalies in both vertical and forward flight.
Pending successful completion of key program milestones to be achieved in close collaboration with DARPA, Aurora plans to conduct the first flight tests of the technology demonstrator in the 2018 timeframe.